Friday, September 25, 2009

Leaps and Bounds

Life always manages to amuse me and really piss me off all at the same time. The four years I spent in college I tried to make friends and be social (I really did). I asked fellow students who shared classes with me if they wanted to grab a bite to eat at the new soup place downtown, I went to events, joined clubs and put myself out there (probably not as much as I should have but still...) and nothing really came of it; I came away mostly with vague aquaintance's that showed a mediocre interest in my personal self which was very off putting and aggravating considering I've known some of these people for three years and they never ONCE thought to ask about me, or return the interest or invitation to be social. Really annoying. So all in the space of a weekend (last weekend) I get flooded with social contact, good and bad.

First the wedding.
Okay, I fully admit I let some of my bitter feelings get to me a little too much. I just don't like a world that doesn't seem to care to put forth the effort to be friendly back to me when I put myself out there. Personally, I consider it rude and just sad that most people are so self-absorbed or ill taught as to not return interest to people trying to be friendly (there's another topic I want to write about; the modern me-first society that we live in) but okay, the wedding.
It was really nice. My neighbor spent a year in China and met his fiancee there and they came back here to be married. It was in a friend's (very spacious) back yard and would have been even better if the weather cooperated a little more. Nothing more uncomfortable than 90 degree heat bouncing off of concrete into your face and the late afternoon desert wind picking up and knocking over tables. The DJ was corny, the ceremony was short, there was cake and lots of food and really hot Asian relatives(friends?) of the bride (why don't American men take note from Asia on fashion!?). I shook a lot of hands, smiled a lot but my family and I being mere neighbors didn't really socialize a lot (although that one guy managed to ask me if I golfed recently; I told him once five years ago that I was on the high school golf team (my parents idea) and ever since then he thinks that I actually care about golfing and do it all the time which I DON'T, I haven't picked up a golf club in over 12 years).
Also came to the conclusion that even if I were in a relationship I'm nowhere near marrying which I suppose is odd for such an old female such as me (the biological clock is ticking, dear).

Sunday was a day of hilarity and misunderstanding. A couple of things that led up to Sunday;
First, I joined an online dating network for the sole purposes of amusment (for I cruelly find people that think a functional relationship from a dating website will work hilarious. Folks, you have a better chance of winning the lottery) and had been casually talking to a guy who lives in my city. He's cute in a computer-geek way and I probably outweigh him by twenty pounds.

Second, I have a friend of sorts who told me about an event at the local Border's (and this is EXACTLY what she told me) where a group of published authors and illustrators come to sit down and look over your portfolio (writing or art) and give you constructive criticism/feedback and possible contacts to further you on your way to being published. This is the EXACT impression I got from her and no, I didn't misunderstand. We get to Border's. I am nervous which results in major fidgeting. Meet the ladies of the group; about five all quite a bit older than I am with some kind of writing printed out on recycled paper. Everyone buys a mocha-whatever covered in whipped-cream and nuts/caramel/ect. (I would have liked one but I'm flat broke, depending on my parents for survival and starting to gain fattage in my thighs anyway)
We sit. and gossip. and sit some more. and here is the actual truth of the matter:
These were not actual published authors and the illustrator lady never showed up. These were bored housewives who write as a creative outlet and hope to be published someday, in the far future, maybe. My first tip off was when one of them whipped out a twenty-five page manuscript and started reading. and reading. aaaand read some more for about a half hour in the which time I was clawing my seat in frustration and WTF's. As a side note I DID happen to notice the vague cute guy sitting next to us focused on his computer but what the hell, coffee shops are where students/geeks thrive so I didn't pay much attention at the time.
So this lady gets done reading her twenty-five page monologue about angsty teens and basketball when I turn to my fellow socially-stunted friend who brought me in the first place and said, 'WTF? I thought we were dropping in having a few words and would be out of here in twenty minutes, tops' (not in those words, exactly, just imagine something politer) and she gives me the goldfish stare and goes 'oh, no. didn't I tell you? this is an all day thing; we're going to be here for another three hours'

Yup. Time to backpeddle.

I smile sweetly and say, 'oh dear, I didn't know that. I have a previous engagement (HA HA!)that I have to be at in about twenty minutes'
in which she replies, 'WHAT engagement are you talking about? Did you have something to do?' as everyone in the group turns to stare at me and wait for a response. thank you SO much socially retarded friend who can't take a hint that I may not have been comfortable and was trying to get out without carnage and makes me suffer with the embarassment of muttering lame excuses about helping my parents with something (another reason to get a job; when in need of backing out of lame events I could always say its a work thing).
In which there is a fuss because she doesn't want to leave and I am literally stranded at Borders, my house is a twenty minute drive thattaway and my driver says , 'see if you can't find another ride'. So I excuse myself, grab my portfolio (everyone ooo'd and aaah'd and one lady said, 'your perspective is wrong' EVERYBODY'S a critic even the ones who never took an art class in their lives) and went outside to sit on the bench and give Daddy a call to come and get me.
Well that was interesting enough for one weekend but it's not over yet because God is ironic and likes smack me with the irony stick. (That bench was uncomfortable, it made my butt hurt,as a side note.) I tried to look busy and important because that area has a tendency to have a lot of beggers (who are well dressed, clean, wearing jewelry and claim they have been stranded and are in need of gas money. hmmm) that sometimes are aggressive. Out walks cute-ish computer boy who kind of wavers as he walks past me then turns around and says, 'excuse me, do I look familar?' thinking this is some kind of new panhandler method I say, 'er, well. maybe? sort of?' THEN I recognize his picture from the dating website and he gives his avatar name and now I think I may have given him the wrong impression. My first impulse was 'JOY, another human MALE being is giving me attention!! Let's be amusing and charasmatic!' so he gives me his business card and asks if we could have coffee sometime (and comments how I didn't look like I was enjoying myself in there). Isn't this sad? He IS cute but after looking in his eyes, shaking his hand and talking to him I felt nothing. (other than a sense of how strange the world is that it would throw me across the path of someone I never intended to meet) but the reaction was interesting; my first impulse was to gaily go along with whatever he said. the ride home I was thinking, 'what the hell, we'll go to coffee and talk' then as the 'i had social contact!' feeling wore off I realized I had fallen into an old pattern of mine towards the opposite sex; I go for the 'safe' men. the men I am not really attracted to (if you don't feel anything you can't get hurt) and therefore the relationship is doomed to fail even before we date. and I made myself swear after the last disastor of a relationship (it was a doozy) that I would never do it again. More things have happened since Sunday;
I dropped off a resume
I learned a new dish to cook
I played five straight hours of Fable
I created three more illustrations that need to be colored
but this is long enough for a post so I will continue on later.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Living in the Shadow

Having just gotten off the phone with my dad has given rise to another thought of topic, a sticky one but something that has a part of shaping who I am. My brother. I only have one sibling, one older brother (by one year) and it's an odd sort of love we have for one another. Best observed from a distance across the planet.
We were discussing the wedding tomorrow and (perhaps not in the best taste) I said ,' Hey, I'm only going for the food'. Understandably I was censured but I have reason for my passive-aggressive anger on two accounts. The first is that my neighbors have never shown the slightest interest in me as a person. Which makes it odd they (rather their son who is about my age) would invite us (me) to begin with. We used to get together every summer for a football/cookout and about three summers ago I was actually socializing with him and his friends. We were playing poker in the living room and having, what I thought was, a great time. Then suddenly he gets up and says , 'Me and my friends are gonna go hit the casinos. see ya' and left me staring after them thinking, WTF? What am I an afterthought?
Last spring, when I finally started to live on my own, his parents (who are realtors in the area) asked my parents if they wanted them to sell the house because its not like I was living here or anything.
How does my brother come into this? My brother is the shining poster child for Everything That Is Awesome in America. He takes risks, he socializes with ease, everybody loves him, he's aggressive, loud, drinks Budwiser, is outspoken and is always into or up to something. He's served in Iraq four times, he's a decorated hero and me, well me, I live in his shadow. I'm surprised people even know of my existance sometimes.
Of course I need to balance it out with a disclaimer of YES he is awesome, YES he deserves all the love and respect he gets, YES I love him, and oh yes I am jealous.
My neighbors remember and revere my brother. On those summer cookouts all I remember is sitting with the Grown Ups listening to them blather about whatever and my brother while rarely I would get a glance and a ,'So you're in college. When are you graduating?' then the conversation would swerve back to Iraq and the War and What My Brother is Doing for the rest of the evening. Because introverted artists are passe and uninteresting.
and art isn't really a subject anyway, more like a fluffy ball of yarn for kiddies to play with. Because its not like art ever did anything for anyone.
In the days of introverted misery when I was struggling to make it outside the bounderies of my house all I heard were conversations about my brother from my father's business associates and various family members. How was he doing, when was he coming home. I never got mentioned because mental retarded shut-ins don't deserve mentioning.
Last month when I graduated college one of my aunts called the house and this is how the conversation went:
my father: 'oh yes, she graduated. even if she got a C in that math class. they'll mail the certificate sometime.' 30 seconds hangtime. and my brother got a half hour of his travels, his serious girlfriend he met in a hotel lobby, his current tour, the house he bought, his trip out here, ect. ect. ect.
I never even got a congratulations card for four years of hard work and two years on the deans list.
This is one of my greatest wants for the future; I want recognition. I want my own group of people, my own friends, my own circle that only know me and not my brother. I want someone to say , 'Wow, you're a really good artist.' or a good writer, or a good person or a hard worker. I want someone to talk about the things I've done because I don't think its inconsequential. Someday I want my father to recognize my achievements, that even though I don't have a medal, or a piece of paper stating how great I am, coming back from that frozen wasteland of mental defeat wasn't easy. To go from shut-in to college graduate wasn't easy. To keep on going and find a job and path somewhere isn't easy. And even if it doesn't compare to fighting in Iraq its something that means a lot to me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Greatest Motivator

As par usual I spent the weekend at my parents home and was fortunate enough in one of my frequent visits to thrift stores to find vintage sewing patterns that have selling potential. Its not a lot but its something to do while waiting for my life to start; selling hand crafted items. I am reminded why I despised the breaks between semesters so much now; my parents (more specifically my mother's ) immovable belief that idle hands are wicked. If you are not working towards a degree then you must be working a job. No matter what. Therefore, also, this weekend I was assigned to manual labor in the backyard. I didn't have a problem for doing it for a day or two; I do happen to owe my mother money but I draw the line at a whole week of moving rocks and digging ditches in the hot sun (living in a desert and all).

Not working, to my family, is testament to being a freeloading, worthless bum (whether or not the country is in economic ruin; I could still be a grocery bagger you know). And although I have to admit I really don't like sitting around all day (hench the crafting/selling idea) I have this thing about doing soul-destroying, thankless, menial labor. And by all accounts I realize the foolish sentiment of that; there are plenty of people who will gladly (and do) take it for a pay check, its how you survive in the world. But me, now, I just... can't. I can't make myself do it; I've had those kinds of jobs when I was younger. I've bagged groceries, I've worked customer service, I've done those minimum wage shit jobs and the reason I went to college was so I never had to do them again.

And, ha ha, here we are right back to where I started; jobless, being pushed by my parents to be a productive member of society. Get a job, any job, I don't care how shitty it is.
What I hate most about unemployment are the 'talks' I get from my parents. The reminder of what a worthless freeloader I'm being.

Being unemployed makes me a second class citizen; depending on my parents for food and shelter also puts me in the position of not being able to say no to anything they ask of me. It messes with my own self-perception and creates this vacuum of unequal power; as long as I need them for survival all my adult independence is put on hold.
Then there's the agoraphobia angle that makes it difficult to work and employers are less than understanding when you have a screaming panic attack and have to go home or take a break or leave the area. Different when you were in school and could just leave the classroom without anyone caring; at a job I think the boss is going to care if you just take off. In the guilty confines of these pages I can also admit that I haven't really been looking. I haven't put in an application anywhere and partially it's not my fault. A sampling of jobs in the area:

- Assistant to psychologist, duties include interviewing inmates at local prison
- Coroner
-Sub sandwich artist (which is a really stupid way of saying minimum wage job where you make food for cranky customers)
- Nurse/Health Practitioner
- Tech jobs (in which I have no Tech skills)
- Warehouse supervisor (see above)
- Library assistant (which I would gleefully take except for it's a six hour drive from where I live)
- Be a model today! Hundreds of people being casted for background movie characters!
- Join the Marines!
- Bar tender

Slim pickings, as it were. I check the wanted pages everyday and it doesn't change; this is exactly what is out there right now. Again, guilty confines, I have to admit the dread feeling of fear in the back of my mind; since my world came crashing down eight years ago I haven't really worked. It scares the crap out of me.
I tried it once, three years ago and it turned out poorly. I lasted three days on the job, got so wound up I couldn't eat or sleep and I just ... ran away from it. The boss was understanding though, she said I could try again later if I wanted. I worked a student part-time job at the local planetarium, doesn't that sound fantastic?

I thought it did too but I had a terrible time with it. My co-workers were all under the age of 22 and, I'm sorry, complete dipshits. I had to endure four hour shifts of console talk, favorite games, Wii sytems, what they were buying with their Christmas bonus and if that wasn't bad enough I got to work with the hick who liked to kill things and tack deer heads on his wall.

There are so many whatifs that go through my head. Whatif I start my job and then I panic (again)? I can't leave, what do I do? Whatif I'm stuck at this job for the rest of my life? Whatif I get sexually harassed, bludgeon the bastard's brain open and have to move to Tibet to avoid the fuzz? Whatif I get treated horribly? How do I even broach the subject of mental illness with my boss? Do I tell them I have panic attacks? Would they work around them? Would they burn my application for even mentioning 'mental illness'? I know there are laws against discrimination but how do you prove they are discriminating against you when they say 'you don't have enough experience' and what they really mean is 'I don't want no mental freak working for me'?

Things to get Done for the Next Week
-Put in a application. Somewhere
-Confront fears of working in some constructive way (volunteer?)
-Prepare for neighbor's wedding on Saturday (meet possible dating material? har har)
-Be more social

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The momentous first post.

When I was nineteen I had a dream and it stuck with me for the next ten years, sometimes thinking on it, whether it was the product of a disturbed teenage brain or whether the realism and conviction of it meant something, I can't really say. It was probably a prophetic wish for a distant future; a dream where I was recognized as a worthy human adult, chosen as special, all my half-formed talents and ideas shining above the masses, where I was recognized. Something big was going to happen when I turned 29. That's all I took away from that dream and that is what I have held onto for ten years.

Reality, however, has a tendency to smack me upside the head with a vicious uppercut. Like so many people before me I can now say , 'This isn't what I expected life to be'.

Moreso than other people because somehow, despite privileges of class and race, stable childhood and opportunity I fell through the cracks of society no matter how hard I backpeddled.

This is my journal and this is a record for the next year to see if prophetic dreams come true.

I have failed spectacularly in the eyes of society and my ever harsh-judging peers. Despite all expectations I am not married, I do not have a career, or children (nor any inclination to have any children) I do not have a job and have the merest handful of social contacts. I am social phobic, obsessive, recovered shut-in, occasional gamer, nose-in-the-book worm, religious, closely bonded with my parents, agoraphobic, anxiety disordered woman. My experience in the world has put me on a different planet so I often feel as though I am speaking a language no one understands nor wants to understand. I am angry. I am resentful. I have a wicked way with words and this is my story; when I turned 21 everything that could go wrong, went wrong. It would almost be sitcom worthy if it had been someone else.

My family lost all our money which included my childhood home, everything that could bring a price and the unstable terror of not knowing whether there would be grocery money or a roof over our heads for the immediate future. We all moved into a two bedroom one bathroom house with four people and a dog. My brother joined the military two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks and was sent to Iraq.

I went into depression. I dropped out of college. I started having terrible panick attacks and stopped going out. I lost my friends because of it. I spent one whole year inside my room, roiling in inexplicable violent emotions which involved self-hate, hate for my friends that abandoned me to my fate and general anger and hate for a world that continued on without me without knowing or caring what was happening to me.
Does funny things to the head.
The worst part about mental illness is the complete isolation of it. Not to wallow in woe-is-me, nobody-understands self-pity but no one does understand who hasn't been through it. How can you describe an experience?
It came to a point where either I did something about it or I was going to die. I lost thirty pounds (when you're already twig thin, its a big deal), I wasn't eating, I wasn't sleeping, something had to give.
I spent four years in counseling just to get me back into college. I was 25. I was terrified to sit in a classroom and it took nearly two years of trying before I was comfortable with it. I stuck with it (the alternative was to revert back to being a shut-in) and learned a lot; about myself, society, people, the world and how I really have no place in it. As a result I can honestly say I have a perfectly unique perspective. I graduated last month with some of the highest grades in my department. I was on the dean's list for the last three semesters so it isn't like I can't do the work.
So here we are, a college graduate with no prospects in a fucked up world and economy struggling once again to find a niche in the world around me. As my counselor would put it; make a plan.

For the Immediate Future

- Keeping up constant correspondence via blogger
- Daily scanning of the wanted ads in hope of a job that does not destroy the will to live
- Be more social
- Ride the bus alone, downtown and be social
- Knock out some commissions
- Prepare portfolio and make appointment with head of Art Department for advice
- Start Etsy/ some sort of self-supporting means of income
- Actually apply somewhere to work
-Think of places to work where I might actually want to work